Digital competitiveness drives UAE sustainability efforts

The UAE comfortably leads the region in this year’s rankings and even jumped one place in the global chart to become the 17th most digitally competitive nation in the world

01 August 2018

The recently released IMD World Digital Competitiveness 2018 report shows that the UAE’s continuing efforts to embrace digital technologies have not gone unnoticed this year. Despite only being the Middle East’s second biggest economy and having a small population of around 10 million people, the UAE still comfortably leads the region in this year’s rankings and even jumped one place in the global chart to become the 17th most digitally competitive nation in the world, a WFES Insights article said.

This encouraging yet perhaps unsurprising news shows that the UAE is confidently continuing down its chosen path of technology-driven innovation at an ever-increasing pace. In line with the government’s various interlinked national and sector-based strategies for achieving greater efficiency and sustainability, digitalisation has quickly become a driving force in forging solutions to the UAE’s persistent challenges in both the economic and environmental spheres.

The following trends are gathering pace in the UAE, encouraging regional and international partners to take up their example and devise further innovations and strategies for enabling a more sustainable world.



Energy production and provision: Both new and existing energy production facilities are benefitting from the UAE’s heightened implementation of digitalised operations. Digitalisation allows power plant operators to make better use of the vast quantities of data that their operations produce, which subsequently enables the running of a much more stable and efficient power grid. Effective analysis of this data across the UAE’s energy producing facilities is helping to reduce emissions, avoid accidents and equipment failures, improve asset reliability and make significant cost savings.

As the UAE builds larger and more numerous renewable energy facilities, the presence of a fully integrated and digitalised smart grid will become even more important. Siemens, one of many companies with long-standing ties to the region, says that smart grid technologies can reduce the costs of integrating wind energy into the mixed energy grid by up to 40 per cent.

Energy efficiency measures: As the UAE’s electricity consumption rate has steadily risen by 5 per cent annually for the past five years, the government’s energy efficiency mandates demonstrate their awareness that building new energy capacity isn’t enough, a significant reduction in national consumption is also necessary to achieve long-term energy sustainability.

Digitalisation is already proving to be a big help in this area of the UAE’s overall sustainability ambitions. The government’s wide-ranging and interlinked initiatives include the supporting of integrated smart transport networks, distributed energy distribution, widespread smart metre installations for greater utility usage efficiency and using digital tools to enable more sustainable building construction and maintenance practices.

According to PwC, these interrelated strategies to reduce electricity consumption have saved the UAE more than 1,100 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 5.4 billion gallons of water during the 5-year period of 2009-2014, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 536,000 tonnes at the same time.

Sustainable logistics: Globally, the logistics industry is predicted to generate almost 6 per cent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The UAE is at the forefront of utilising digital transformation to severely reduce the carbon footprint of its logistical operations in accordance with the sustainability pillar of the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda.

Dubai Customs is a prominent example of the effect that digitalisation can have on the logistics business in terms of engendering sustainable operating practices. Their recently launched virtual freight and logistics corridor has substantially streamlined the process of transferring goods between shipping operators and port handling authorities. This fully digitalised logistical approach combines automation, syndicated customs procedures and various other advanced technologies to overcome many of the administrative hurdles and bottlenecks that plague more traditional operators. Subsequently, UAE logistics companies are experiencing much reduced turnaround times, fuel expenditure and carbon footprint ratios.

Urban planning: Buildings account for approximately 60 per cent of the GCC’s overall electricity consumption, which presents a huge opportunity for improving the sustainability of the UAE’s new and existing cities. Through the use of revolutionary software, digitalisation is enabling urban planners in the UAE to visualise, plan and then create the conditions for better, smarter and more sustainable cities. Tools like Autodesk let planners run extremely sophisticated simulations of exactly how and when a future city’s buildings and infrastructure will be used, taking factors like population growth, traffic flows and so on into account. By correctly analysing data captured from real-life cities, urban planners are able to create highly accurate 3D-model simulations of how their proposed city will function. Essentially this allows them to predict the future and avoid making expensive mistakes right at the planning stage.  

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